By Ekta R. Garg
August 26, 2015
Genre: Middle grade fiction
Rated: Bordering on Bypass it
What happens when a much-loved fairy tale gets reworked with an alternate ending? What happens when that ending is offered by the same company that released the fairy tale in the first place? Author Liz Braswell gives readers the ultimate “what if” for Disney’s movie Aladdin in the entertaining but somewhat faulty novel A Whole New World, released by Disney Press in its “A Twisted Tale” series.
In the film, Aladdin dreams of riches and fame. A chance meeting with Princess Jasmine, heir to the throne, underscores his dreams. He doesn’t know that the Grand Vizier, Jafar, has spent quite a bit of time scheming for the throne for himself. Jafar gets wind of a magic lamp with a genie that grants wishes, and he tricks Aladdin into retrieving the lamp from a dangerous treasure trove. At the last minute, though, Aladdin ends up with the lamp and gets to make the wishes instead.
Author Liz Braswell takes the formula and lets Jafar have what he wants. She also fills in some of the details on Aladdin’s life and enriches Jasmine’s purpose in the story. Jafar gets the opportunity to fill a true villain’s space, and other minor characters enter the picture to provide depth.
In some places Braswell’s choice of story direction works. Readers get to know a little bit more about Aladdin’s background, including meeting his mother for a short time. When Jafar takes over Agrabah, Jasmine has an opportunity to fight back instead of just sitting around wondering when someone will come and save her (a trope often fulfilled by earlier Disney princesses.) The story allows the characters to spend more time with one another and connect for longer stretches of time.
Unfortunately Braswell also chooses to do away with many of the elements that worked the best in the film. Iago, Jafar’s pet parrot, becomes an afterthought. The magic carpet plays an important role for a brief time but also gets sidelined. Most prominently, however, Braswell doesn’t give the genie enough room on the page. In the film Robin Williams made the genie a star right along with Aladdin. In A Whole New World, the genie becomes just another supporting character.
As a result the charm of the original story decreases by dramatic measures. It no longer offers all of the enjoyable aspects of a fairy tale. Braswell has transformed it into a realistic story with elements of magic, and that distinction becomes more prominent as the story progresses. Jafar may get to enjoy time and more infamy as a villain, but that extended story time for him comes at the detriment of the overall book.
Fans of the movie might be curious about an alternative ending to the original story, and for them I would recommend they Borrow A Whole New World. Otherwise non-Disney fans or those not familiar with the movie at all should probably Bypass it.